Back to School

The days are shorter, the weather is cooler, and the children have returned to school. the relaxing days of summer are behind us! The coming of autumn often means busier school and activity schedules, presenting new challenges and stresses to parents and children alike. Here are a few tips to effectively managing some common school problems.

Sleep Schedules

Returning to school usually means starting the day earlier. It is important, however, that children maintain a healthy sleep schedule. Older children and teenagers need at least 8 hours of sleep at night. Younger school age children often need 10 or more hours of sleep. Children, who are resistant to go to sleep at night, may experience fatigue and decreased school performance the next day. Parents can encourage healthy sleep habits by enforcing a routine schedule that includes a “cooling-down” period in the evening after dinner. Set reasonable goals for bedtime. if children are used to going to bed at 10pm all summer, they will not suddenly start going to bed at 8pm. They may need to be transitioned more slowly. As always, choose your battles carefully. If children are unable to fall asleep at an appropriate time, have then engage in quiet activities such as reading, in their bed until they do feel sleepy. Older children should be discouraged from daytime napping, as our bodies tend to “bank” sleep and these naps may interfere with their nighttime sleep cycle.

Extra-curricular activities

Extra-curricular activities are an excellent way for children to explore interests, stay active, and meet new friends. These activities may include sports activities, music, dance, scouting, theatre, art, gymnastics, horseback riding, gardening, or many others both in school and out. Teenagers involved in extra-curricular activities are less likely to abuse drugs. Children involved in extra-curricular activities are less likely to become obese. Even non-sports related activities will encourage children to get off the couch, and away from the television and computer. Be imaginative and follow your child’s interests. Pushing children into activities that interest the parents may create resentment from both parties. It is also important to realize your own child’s limitations. Not every child can be an Olympic quality athlete, or a Broadway-bound singer. but any child can enjoy these activities on some level. It is important not to over-involve your children. As many parents realize, parenting can quickly turn into a taxi service, as children are shuttled from one activity to another. Remember. school work should be a priority ALWAYS, and over-involvement in activities will cause undue stress on parents and children alike.

School avoidance/anxiety

Many children experience stress and anxiety related to school attendance. Often these anxieties manifest themselves as school avoidance. School avoidance can take many forms. from outright refusal to attend to more subtle and unintentional complaints of headache or bellyache. These symptoms are very real to the child. anxiety will produce a bellyache, and even vomiting, just as it does in adults who are nervous about something stressful. The child is not always intentionally trying to avoid school, but is merely experiencing symptoms of anxiety related to school attendance. Often these symptoms do not appear on weekends or holidays, or get better as the day progresses and school finishes. It is important to acknowledge these symptoms and not discount them. often children will find some relief with gentle encouragement. If the symptoms are not severe, the child should be sent to school, because that may help them eventually overcome their anxiety. Of course, the school or teacher should be consulted to address any specific reasons for school anxiety that might be easily remedied. Children are not always conscious of specific anxieties, or may not be willing to acknowledge ones that are present. But the teacher may be aware of a school bully, or witness anxiety related to a specific class. If your child’s symptoms persist or become particularly severe, a medical evaluation may be necessary.